‘WE NEED HELP, PLEASE’ – A FARMERS PLEAFarmers in the Gedo region of Somalia fear that the new swarms of desert locust could spark widespread crop loss and deepen already serious levels food insecurity. Communities relying on farmland production and pastoral communities whose livelihoods rely on livestock are particularly at risk.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that unless early and sustained measures are taken to control the Desert Locust invasion in Somalia, the pest will spread to other Eastern African nations, and cause many more damages in agriculture and rangelands. FAO disclosed that the rapid incursion of the Desert Locust across many regions of Somalia has already resulted in significant losses on croplands and jeopardized the livelihoods of smallholder farmers that depend on crops and livestock.
About Desert Locust
Desert Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers that can form large swarms and pose a major threat to agricultural production, livelihoods, food security and the environment and economic development.
Adult locust swarms can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind. Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day - about two grams every day. A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.
Meet Madoobe Shide
The country's Ministry of Agriculture said the insects, which consume large amounts of vegetation and destroyed rangelands posed "a major threat to Somalia's fragile food security situation".
Farmers in Somalia like Madoobe Shide Ali, who lives in riverine village known as Warayle near Dollow town, Gedo region, already saw vegetation and pastures decimated by locusts earlier this year and fears the worst is yet to come if more eggs hatch.
"Once swarms of locusts arrive on a farm, they don't leave anything behind - they eat everything," said Madoobe.
Fueled by warmer and wetter weather patterns towards the end of 2019, the locust outbreak is the worst the East African region has seen in decades and came on the heels of a year marked by extreme droughts and floods in Somalia. Heavy rains in late March established favorable breeding conditions for yet another generation of locusts in the Horn of Africa. "I am over 50 years old and I have never seen the kind of swarms that landed on our farms and destroyed the rangelands, I have no words to describe the sheer magnitude of the destructions they caused ,” said Madoobe. "The insects invaded my farm just as I was planning for a bumper harvest after investing both time and resources to maintain my farm therefore making the loss even more painful. If this is not dealt with quickly, and in a timely manner, this will have a serious effect on the food security of the region.”
“I lost 18kgs of onions, this is almost 500 packs of onions that were to be transported to the market for sale, 200 trees of bananas and other cash crops, in my village some farms experienced total loss of their crops, some 20kgs of onions in a single farm is bad enough, let alone the damage caused to other regular crops like water melon, beans, sorghum and fodder,” said Madoobe. “Every farmer in the village has lost crops worth hundreds of thousands of shillings, the damage caused is irreparable and if this continues there is the real fear of starvation that is now becoming a grim reality.” He requested for urgent support from the government of Somalia and the international community considering the situation was declared as a national emergency by the government.
Acccording to FAO, the second wave of desert locusts is threatening East Africa with estimates that it will be 20 times worse than the plague that descended last time. This second invasion from breeding grounds in Somalia includes more young adults which are especially voracious eaters.
If the locusts damage our crops, our children will starve
“The thought of a second swarm is one that sends sheers down my spine, having personally witnessed the huge destruction of the first swarm, one can only imagine what to expect in the second swarm where we are currently battling the impacts of the recent floods and not less in a pandemic where COVID19 has changed our way of life, what is worse is that we are worse prepared now than we were last year, if the locusts cause more damage to our crops this time, our children will starve” says Madobe.